Friday, February 15, 2013

Blog 61: My Visit With Mom at the Group Home

I flew into town and spent the afternoon with my mom on Valentine's Day.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend the day than with my mom, who was the most loving, kind and nurturing person I ever knew.  She loved unconditionally, and always put her daughters first.  She taught me how to love, and because of that, I love her more than words can describe.   That's the way she loved her daughters, too.

This was the first time I had seen my mom since November.  I was very anxious and apprehensive because based on our previous phone conversations, I sensed she had declined considerably.  I couldn't tell if it was just because she didn't have phone skills anymore, or if it was because she actually had become worse.  I just needed to see her to know if what I had envisioned her being like, was really true.  It was.  In fact, she was even worse than what I had expected.

Mom was sleeping in a chair in her room when I arrived, and she had her arms wrapped around a baby doll.  I had suspected she was doing that now based on a phone call I had made to her awhile back.  I know from my volunteer work at a nursing home that a lot of the female residents hold baby dolls in their arms.  When she awoke she looked up at me with sad eyes.  I said, "Hi, Mom!"  She didn't have that happy expression she usually has when she sees me.  I asked her if she knew who I was and she said she didn't know.  I sensed she recognized me and she was trying to find my name somewhere in her memory.  She just couldn't say my name.  I told her I am her oldest daughter and she repeated, 'the oldest'.  I didn't want to tell her my name and I waited to see if she would remember.  After a few minutes she said it.   I could see a sense of relief in her, just as much as I was feeling a sense of relief that she remembered.  The caregiver told me that mom says my name a lot.

I brought mom a small box of Valentine chocolates and a Singing Bear that sings the Lollipop song while she moves her arms in a circle, holding lollipops.  My mom always liked singing toys and cards, but she just looked at it with no expression on her face.  I coaxed mom to eat two pieces of chocolate but she didn’t seem interested.  The caregiver said she eats, but very little.  

I knelt by my mom and talked to her and tried to get an assessment of her condition.  Her Alzheimer’s is winning this battle.  Not like I expected anything differently, it's just so hard to see my mom like that.  She is weaker, her face is drawn, and her movements are slow.  I held her hands and I sensed it made her feel safe.  Her hands were soft and gentle, like they alway were, only weak.  She let me rub her back and run my fingers through her hair and just touch her.  I always want to touch her when I'm with her.  At certain times during my visit, I could have just broken down in tears, but instead I held it together for my mom's sake.

I don’t know how much she understands of what I say.  Her hearing is not very good, and she always had such good hearing in the past.  It seems that as soon as I say something it only takes a fraction of a second for her to forget it.  She will start to answer my question but then forget mid-sentence what she was going to say.  Sometimes I wonder if she knows more than she can express and it frustrates her that she can't put her thoughts into words.  I don't know.

Most of her sentences were fragmented and didn’t make any sense, however I did take a few notes of some of the more memorable things she said.  Mom said, “You know what, I’m very, very, very close...”  Then she didn’t finish what she was trying to say.  I asked her, but she couldn’t tell me.  She also said, "Are they going to bury...that coat?"  And, "I’m going to make it til I wouldn’t die."  

Then out of the blue she said, “When I get old and I’m thinking, Lizzie where are you?”  That got to me.  I wondered what she meant.  I asked my daughter about it afterwards and she said she thought mom was putting two different thoughts together, and the fact that I come to see her often, she remembers that.   That statement and another one she said, really tugged at my heart.  At one point she started to drift off to sleep and she heard me move, which startled her.  She opened her eyes and said, "I just like to be with the girls."  It was like she was dreaming and she spoke of what her dream was, or what she was thinking sub-consciously.  That made me feel sad because all along my mom has always said she wants us all to be together.  And sadly, we are not.  

I took some pictures of mom and me and a video of her.  The pictures didn't turn out so good because mom hasn't a clue how to sit in front of the camera.  She is oblivious to what I am doing.  When I viewed the pictures on my phone she said, "That's you!!"  Then I pointed to her picture and said that's her.  She looked at her picture and said, "I'm so ugly."  I said, "NO, you are not ugly mom, you are beautiful!"  I told her over and over again that she is beautiful, because she is.   

The place mom is living in is a nice house, with six residents and two full-time caregivers.  The women were very friendly and I was pleased with what I saw.  I have to admit I felt a tinge of jealousy that they are the ones who get to spend so much time with my mom.  I know it is a difficult task, but it is one that I wanted to do.  A man introduced himself to me and told me his mom and dad just moved into the house and he actually lives in Arizona, not far from me.  He was very nice and we talked for awhile about our parents.  He comes back to visit as often as I do.  What a small world. 

Mom remembered her home address and the city she used to live in.  I was surprised at that.  She couldn't spell any words though, which she used to be able to do better than the average person less than a year ago.  One other sad fact is that she will never dance again.  That was something she so enjoyed doing.  Now she can't even walk.  I asked the caregivers to get her up so I can see how she walks.  Mom needed them to hold her up or she would have fallen over.  One of the ladies said, "Don't be scared."  And my mom, with all her might, said, "I'm NOT scared!"  She sure didn't have the fight in her that she used to, though she tried to muster up the strength to shout it out.  It was barely audible and her breathing was labored by just taking a few steps down the hallway into the living room.  I noticed she has lost weight.  

When they sat her on the sofa and left the room, Mom looked out the window and started crying.  I reached my arms around her and asked her why she was crying.  She said, "I don't know, I don't know."  It broke my heart.  She cried three different times during my visit.  Just out of nowhere the tears came.  Gosh, I hate this disease so much!  

They put Mom in a wheelchair to take her back to her room after a little while.  That's something Mom would have fought, kicking and screaming, before.  There was no way she'd ever sit in a wheel chair, but she relented and almost welcomed the safety of the chair.  There was no help on her part in getting settled in the rocker when we got back to her room.  It's like she can't even move her body anymore.  I put the baby doll back in her arms and wrapped the blanket around her as I propped her legs up on a pillow.  She snuggled the baby and gently kissed it on the head.  The doll is a girl but she calls it a boy, and he has no name.  

Mom said with clarity, “I’m glad that you’re here.”  I said I’m glad I’m here, too.  I was holding her hand and I told her I’m sorry she's sick, and she said, “Oh, I’m not sick!"  I asked her if she was happy and she said yes.  I asked if she felt good and she said yes.  But to me, she seemed anything but happy or well.  I could see the frustration in that she couldn't figure out what was going on with her.  

I told mom I love her many times and I told her I've missed her so much.  She did respond, mostly, and tell me she loves me, too.  She sounded so much like my mom at those times. It’s like those words are embedded in her mind, never to be forgotten.  

Mom mentioned her sister's name and her brother-in-law.  In fact, she saw another couple sitting at the table and she said that was them.  I told the caregiver that Mom's sister just celebrated her 80th birthday.  She would like to come see my mom but she can't make the three hour drive up there.  Mom mumbled something about her mom and I got the poster board off the wall with the pictures of all of her daughters and grandkids and the family home and her parents.  Mom wasn't able to say anyone's name.  She kept saying my name for my sisters.  She didn't seem to recognize her parents either, or the picture of her as a little girl.  I was thinking after I left that maybe she couldn't see the pictures very well.  She used to wear glasses sometimes.  She hasn't worn them for awhile now.  I will find out why tomorrow.  

There are some things I need to fill you in about what's going on with my sisters.  I have just been avoiding doing that because I had to step back and let things go for awhile and stop stressing about it.  It was just getting to be too much for me and in order to have some peace and happiness in my life, I had to remove myself from the pain.  I promise to give an update soon. 

Tomorrow I will go back to see my mom, and for the next several days I will be spending a lot of time with her.   I can't wait to see her again, and like always, I hope for a better day for her the next time.  This just isn't fair.  But I suppose, life isn't fair. 


  1. I want to hold her too... Hold her hand and give her a hug... Tell her, in person, that I love her. I miss her so much! ~ Rose

  2. Life is so fragile and yet people can be so strong. I know the painful course you are on and pray that you find comfort on the good days and strength on the days that are not so good. Beth